WARREN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Another Middle Tennessee school district is mourning the death of a teacher lost to COVID-19. Warren County Schools Superintendent Dr. Grant Swallows said John Upchurch taught math at Warren County High School before he died from COVID-19 last weekend.
“He’d been sick for a couple of weeks prior to this and so lots of folks have been talking about him and fondly remembering him and praying for him,” said Dr. Swallows. “He was a CrossFit gym owner, and very in great shape and very good health. And we just…. such a tragedy and a big loss to our community and our school community, certainly.”
Upchurch taught geometry and applied math at the high school so his students were in different grade levels. He’d been with the district for about five years.
“It’s tough on any community dealing with a loss. It’s just tough. But certainly, when you’re in your school community, where you’re so close, and work so closely together, it’s tough,” Dr. Swallows said, adding that he and the school’s principal told Upchurch’s students what happened on Monday and offered counseling services. “It’s an eye-opening experience for them. And all kids react differently, some are emotional, some are just quiet and you know, so we experienced all those emotions yesterday (Monday) to our kids, and we had some that spoke to counselors. But I think Mr. Upchurch would want that to happen, would want us to continue and educate them about how to deal with loss and tragedy.”
Dr. Swallows said the district also lost a custodian to COVID-19 about three weeks ago.
“I think it brings everyone into perspective of when something like this happens, you have to think, well, ‘sometimes I don’t think it’s real until it hits us’,” said Dr. Swallows. “I certainly do think that regardless of what happens, or how tragedy occurs, it brings perspective to all of us. And so we’re just sad in general, regardless of whether it was COVID or not, and we know we’re going to work to continue to try to keep people safe and in school and just do our best because everybody’s dealing with the same things.”
However, they are seeing the downward trend in virus cases that other districts are having in Middle Tennessee. At its peak, the district had about 270 students that tested positive for COVID-19 or were under quarantine for being a close contact this semester. Last week they had 24 positive cases among students and there are two employees with positive cases.